Bling and sparkle

Mavis Shoesmith, Brighton Pavillion

The first AGM of Southdowns Creative Stitchers was held yesterday. It was good to celebrate the start of our new independent stitch group. The Chair’s report will be available for members; the brief summary is that after a lot of hard work, we are now well established as an independent stitch group with a healthy membership, healthy budget, and lots going on. After a lot of hard work sorting out things like a new constitution, bank account, budget etc., we are very pleased that we we can get on with what we all enjoy…stitch. The business part of the meeting was dealt with quickly, allowing time to look at the pop-up exhibitions and to catch up with old friends and new members.

Mavis Shoesmith inspired us with a pop-up exhibition of her City and Guilds work – you will find some photos of her display later in this post. Also on show were pop-up exhibitions by the three sub-groups; Traditional Embroidery, Thursday Workshop and Mixed Media. Photos below.

We also had the ‘Travelling Scrapbooks’ out for people to see. These are 14 scrapbooks that were created as a lockdown project. Each person chose a visual project and provided a sketchbook. The books then travelled round the group so that people could add their own contributions to that subject. At the end, the books ended up with their original owners, stuffed full of inspiration and surprises from other people. We hadn’t quite appreciated just how much work would be on show in these books, so a brief showing didn’t do them justice. We will try to think of a better way to show then another time – maybe here on the website, or maybe as a slide show at one of our ‘sit and stitch’ meetings.

Here are some images of work by the three different sub-groups. What a wonderful mixture of techniques, media, designs and colour…and what a lot of ‘woman-hours’ must have gone into all of these!

Traditional Embroidery group and Thursday workshop group

Traditional Group and Thursday Workshop
Traditional Embroidery group and Thursday workshop group
Traditional Embroidery group and Thursday workshop group
Traditional Embroidery group and Thursday workshop group
Traditional Embroidery group and Thursday workshop group
Mixed Media group
Mixed Media group
Mixed Media group
Mixed Media group
Mixed Media group
Mixed Media group

And now on to Mavis Shoesmith’s work. Mavis brought her City and Guilds work for us to see and drool over. The name of this post is ‘Sparkle and Bling’ for a reason; Mavis loves to use glittery, sparkly additions to her work. She brought a very wide range of work, from traditional to experimental. Inspirations for her designs come from such different sources that make her work very individual and varied. Thank you Mavis!

Detail of hanging
Mavis Shoesmith, Brighton Pavillion
Mavis Shoesmith
Mavis Shoesmith, ‘A walk though the trees’
Mavis Shoesmith, Goldwork Sampler
Mavis Shoesmith, based on Elizabethan embroidery
Mavis Shoesmith
Mavis Shoesmith, ‘The Dandy Diamont’

A tribute to Sue Bush

We were so sad to lose our friend and fellow-member Sue Bush. Linda Hoddy, together with our secretary Sue Parkinson, wrote a lovely tribute to Sue for our newsletter, but we wanted to share an expanded version here. There is so much to say about Sue, and so many memories and anecdotes. She was a big personality, and people naturally gravitated to her. She had many close friends in the group.

Sue joined Worthing Embroiderers Guild 25 years ago and stayed loyal and active throughout that time. She was an active member of the committee and could always be relied on to volunteer whenever help was needed, whether it be stewarding at an exhibition, teaching a workshop, or just making a welcome cup of tea. She organised volunteers to ‘sit and stitch’ at Parham House, and it was always a great pleasure to find yourself sharing a ‘shift’ there with her. During the time when committee meetings were held on Zoom, Sue would always sit in her sewing room stitching away during the meeting; listening intently and taking an active part in the meeting, but never one to waste a single moment as she had so much creativity waiting to be expressed.

Sue was a regular member of the Traditional Embroidery group, and also threw herself wholeheartedly into the new Mixed Media group. We were all astounded at the energy that Sue put into her creative work;  when most of us would be pleased to produce one piece of work, Sue could be relied on to produce five or six. She was remarkably cheerful and resilient; for example, she approached the successive Lockdowns as an opportunity to do even more creative work. She loved to try new things, and she loved to share her enthusiasm with other people. At a recent meeting she inspired us all with her amazing collection of embroidered bags, boxes and books. She talked us through the many techniques she used in her work including beading, felting, weaving, patchwork, embroidery and canvas work.

Sue was born in Leamington Spa in 1946. She had a sister, Teona (Tig), a daughter Lucy and a son Ian, and grandchildren. Sue and her sister grew up in the Clent hills in Worcestershire. Seeing how much energy Sue had in her seventies, it isn’t difficult to imagine how much energy she must have had a child. At her funeral, an anecdote in her eulogy described Sue falling off her horse as a child, dusting herself down, making no fuss and getting straight back on. That sounds like the Sue we all knew and loved: no-nonsense, no fuss: ‘Just get on with it’. Sue didn’t suffer fools…but at the same time she was incredibly kind and supportive, as well as fun, which earned her the friendship and respect of so many people.

Sue did various jobs over the years, some linked to her love of fabric and stitch. She worked for Liberty’s haberdashery department, and she also worked for the designer Belinda Belville. Her role there was beading onto wedding dresses, including wedding dresses for the Royal family. Sue loved beading, and loved to teach workshops and projects on her favourite subject. She very kindly mended a beaded necklace for me:  it broke a long time after I made it and I had forgotten the technique, but Sue fixed it and returned it as good as new. I will think of her when I wear it.

Sue met her second husband John in the departure lounge before a cruise. They loved going on cruises together, and Sue would make a sampler after each trip as a keepsake. Sue lost John in 2018. Even more than before, Sue threw herself into all the creative activities and friendships that sustained her. After being very ill a few years ago, Sue made a great recovery and seemed full of energy and zest for life, so it was very unexpected when she passed away so suddenly. She has left a ‘Sue-shaped hole’ in our group. We will miss her friendship, her willingness to share knowledge and skills, her incredible enthusiasm and her hunger to learn new things.

I’ll finish with a prayer that was read at Sue’s funeral. If you scroll down below that, you will find some examples of Sue’s lovely work. If you would like to comment, or add your own contribution to this tribute, you are welcome to write in the ‘Comments’ box below.

The Needlewoman’s Prayer.

God grant that I may see the stitch

Until my dying day

And when my last short thread is clipped

And scissors tucked away

The work that I have done lives on

That other folk may see

The pleasures I have known, Lord,

In the skill you gave to me.

Sue Bush, Rust. Inspired by work for one of the Travelling Scrapbooks.
Sue Bush: Black and white.
Sue Bush
Sue Bush

Textiles: Nature and Colour

How lovely it was to have Susan D’Souza at our meeting to tell us all about her work.

Susan gave us an introduction to her work which explores nature through details of plants, gardens and landscape images.  Her process involves taking photos from nature and then abstracting images and creating layers with dyer or hand painted fabric applique techniques using stitch to highlight detail and texture.

Susan’s work often incorporates natural, found, and sustainable materials and plant-based dyes highlighting the fragile relationship with nature, she likes working slowly, recording the changes in the seasons.

Susan brought many pieces of her work which included Batik and natural dyes.

Susan has a Batik and resist workshop on the 3rd July at Prairie Gardens should you wish to learn a little more of her craft.

Don’t forget to visit her website for more information

Chinese and Japanese Embroidery













A belated ‘thank you’ to Cobi Erskine, one of our members who gave a fascinating talk on Japanese and Chinese Embroidery at our March meeting. Annette Ragless wrote a few words to try to sum up Cobi’s talk.

‘What a treat we had with Cobi, and to think that we have only seen a fraction of her collection and stories. Cobi showed us the first piece of embroidery she had created, and spoke about a book that her father gave her as a present: ‘Five Thousand Years of Textiles’. This book gave her a real insight and a taste for travelling and creating. Her next piece was Blackwork, which is where a lifelong passion started for this art.

Cobi assisted in researching the book ‘Miao Embroidery from South West China’ with Rush Smith, and she showed us her own sampler of all the different methods.







We saw samples of Cobi’s own work as well as the many pieces she has collected over the years, including:

Zhen Xian Bao – Thread books with pockets

Emblems of the Chinese Civil Servants (Birds) and Military (Beasts)


Chinese Tribal Miao Ethnic process – created in strips and stitched together to create Baby carriers.
Shibori – Navy and White Bag
Kogin – similar to Sashiko but created by thread counting
Temari Balls – A form of original Chinese Folk Art, given as a symbol of loyalty and friendship.
Kuba cloth
Pocari Work
The final piece was one of Cobi’s own work: a purple shaded woven banner which was inspired by an Art Deco vase. Cobi used fabric doilies on this, which had been hand-dyed.

Textile Art Exhibition at Ely Cathedral

As a change from writing about other peoples’ work, here is some information about an exhibition that I’m taking part in, with our exhibiting group ‘FIVE’. We’re really pleased that our textile art exhibition ‘A Special Place’ will be taking place at Ely Cathedral from 9th – 22nd March 2022. Please come and visit! 
‘We all have a secret somewhere to go to for comfort, inspiration or happiness. In this exhibition, five textile artists explore their own inspirational locations.
This fascinating collection of work ranges from handmade felt to goldwork through mixed media to quilting. The work is based on local gardens and faraway places. Many of the exhibits will be available to purchase.
Barbara Deacon, Cheryl Montgomery, Elaine Grahame, Jane Robinson and Suzanne Ball have worked together for ten years. This is their third group exhibition, after previous successful exhibitions in Worthing & Milton Keynes’.
I plan to be at the Cathedral on some of the days we’re open, so do let me know if you plan to visit in case we can meet up. There is more detail on the Cathedral website, for example opening times etc. Entry to the exhibition is free, and there’s a charge of £8.50 to visit the rest of the Cathedral. The first week of our exhibition coincides with an exhibition by the Royal School of Needlework, so you could get two exhibitions in one visit. If you want to get to Ely by train from Sussex, on some days there is a direct train to Cambridge that you can pick up at Brighton or Haywards Heath, avoiding London and the tube. Then it’s an easy connection on to Ely.

Talk by Zara Day

This months talk by Zara Day was very well received. Sadly I missed it so I can’t give any details, except to say that I’ve heard really enthusiastic comments from those who attended. Zara was invited to talk to us by popular request, after several members attended online courses with her during lockdown. Zara teaches a wide range of courses, both online and in person. Zara has sent details of her new courses (see below).  The website link below goes through to a message saying it’s a new website and to try later. You can ask our Secretary for Zara’s phone number which I won’t put on here, or  you can contact Zara on Instagram or Facebook at;

I have decided to repeat the new courses I offered in January as they have been so popular, and the outcomes are brilliant. If you have done Course 1 with me, you may be interested in Course 10. Several members had asked me to reinvent this course as they had really enjoyed it. So, Course 10 explores a different range of hand embroidery stitches and how these can flow across a piece and be inspired by our natural landscape. Course 11 looks at creating either imaginative or realistic  birds inspired by a mixture of tropical and native bird species in 3D. Where we will use a variety of decorative embroidery stitches and beading on top of a fabric sculpture. During Course 12 I will be sharing some of the techniques I use to create fabric designs for some of the pieces I have produced for my bespoke embroidery design company Rosemaryrose. These designs have been commissioned by interior designers for products such as cushions, chairs, and headboard designs.

I am running my Mini Make – Tree Bark Examined If you enjoyed Course 10 you will like this course as I share lots of different techniques inspired by the patterns, textures and colours found on tree bark. I take you through ways of creating a piece of textile art that looks realistic or abstract.

As before all courses consist of sessions lasting for around an hour and a half, on the same day and time each week. They are conducted through zoom in small groups in real time with live demonstration, artist inspiration, feedback on work and advice how to progress further, time to chat with other members and be inspired by each other’s pieces and knowledge. I have attached the information sheets about each of them.

March Timetable

Course 10 – Ebb and Flow – Tuesday 8th March – 4.30pm – 6 sessions £45.00

Course 11 – Decorative Birds – Wednesday 9th March – 4.00pm – 6 sessions £45.00

Course 12– Layering and Cutting Away – Thursday 10th March – 4.30pm – 6 sessions £45.00

Mini Make – Tree Bark Examined – Monday 7th, 14th, and 21st March + 11th April – 4 sessions £40.00

Places are limited for each course so if you would like to reserve a place, please email me. I will be reserving places on a first come basis, it may take me a couple of days to get back to you to confirm the place depending on the number of emails I receive. But I will work through them in date order. You may want to give me your first and second choice.

To secure you place, payment for the course needs to be paid by the 25th February and I will send out the zoom link and all the course information on the 28th February.

I  look forward to hearing back from any of your members if they have any questions or would like to reserve a place on one of these courses.

Zara Day, Founder, Zara Day Embroidery Design

Trying something different…

The speaker for our January meeting on Tuesday 11th is Angie Hughes, who will be talking about ‘Creative Ice-breaking’. We will be trying a new format this month. Angie will be speaking by Zoom from her own studio, which you can join either from your own home, or by watching on the big screen at the hall. Her work will be shown on screen, so if you choose not to come to the hall then you will still see exactly the same as the people in the hall. Members will receive a Zoom link by email. Due to Covid rates, the numbers in the hall are strictly limited so that we can maintain more social distancing than usual, so please contact our Secretary to ask to book one of the places. If you are a non-member who would like to attend by Zoom, you would be welcome to attend for a small charge. Please send a request via the ‘contact’ page on this website, including your email address. We look forward to seeing as many people as possible through one route or the other. We can still all wave to each other via the screen! If you are a new member and would like to join us, please email our Secretary Sue for a link on 

You can see Angie Hughes work on her website:

‘A lifetime of looking’

Parham House Gardens

We had a wonderful talk this month by one of our own members, Julia Brown. Julia specialises in exquisite landscapes which she embroiders on her trusty 1970’s Bernina sewing machine. Julia comes from a family or tailors and sewers, and has stitched since childhood. She showed us a sweet tiny needlecase that she stitched as a young child, and spoke about how important it is to share our love of stitch with children and to pass our skills on. She also spoke about the importance of tutors, and she particularly acknowledged the influence of local machine-embroidery tutor Wendy Dolan.

Julia has found her niche in machine-embroidered landscapes. It combines three key things that she loves: sewing, painting and landscapes. Sewing started in childhood, and for many years Julia has made and embroidered wedding dresses professionally. Her love of painting underlies her embroidery work (for example a knowledge of composition, colour mixing, where to put a focal point etc.). She lightly paints her fabric before stitching, leaving lots of space for stitching it afterwards.

Julia studied Geography at University, and her love of landscape is what has led her to this particular aspect of stitching. She is interested in the underlying geology, as well as the human influence of things like tracks, hedges and fields. A recent influence is the wonderful book by Robert Macfarlane: ‘The Old Ways, A Journey on Foot’. This exploration of the ancient tracks and landscapes encourages the reader to slow down and really look at the world around them. It’s a lovely book, available from most good bookshops.

Julia showed us how she builds up layers of different textures before starting to stitch, using fabrics such as crepe bandage, scrim, dish-cloth etc. She then adds even more texture and detail with stitch. Many thanks to Julia for a very interesting talk, and for showing us your lovely work. To see more of Julia’s work, go to her website or FB page:

Alex Waylett workshop

Stitched by Gay Hibbs

Some wonderful work was created recently in a workshop with Alex Waylett.  Alex had visited us several years ago for a one-day workshop. Members enjoyed that so much that by popular request she was invited back for a two-day workshop this time. After delays due to Covid, Gay was finally able to make this course happen, and the feedback that we’ve had is very enthusiastic.

Here are some photos of the pieces that people were working on (thank you to Alex for allowing the work to be shown here).  If you would like your name added as the person who stitched one of these, please let me know. For those who missed this course, Alex also runs online workshops which you can find on her website:

I don’t know who stitched this, but judging by the owls I would guess it was Annette…
Stitched by Sue Bush

Jane Baskerville 

Gay found a wonderful venue for the workshop. I think members could get used to the luxury of Findon Place – what a treat. Here are some photos of the venue. Many thanks to Gay for organising the workshop, and for hosting Alex and taking care of everything. As a P.S. People sometimes email me with comments on a news post. However, if you could please put your comment in the ‘Comment Box’ below this post, then other people can read it too. Thanks!

Findon Place

Free short course on making fabric books

For those of you who haven’t already seen this on Facebook, here’s a link to a great short course by Isobel Moore on making fabric sample-books. It shows you how to make a little book to stitch into. And it’s free! I hear that several of our members are making these fabric books at the moment, and enjoying it. It’s a nice way to have something small and portable that you can stitch anywhere. While you’re on Isobel’s website, take a look at the other courses. Lots of us did the ‘spirals’ course during lockdown, and the others look interesting. Isobel also has an interesting blog, and a regular podcast with machine-embroiderer Gina Ferari